8 out of 10 people only read the headline, leaving just 2 who stay and read more, and hopefully, all of the content. A headline needs to grab attention in just a few words, entice with just the right amount of information to make the reader “linger longer” to find out more. This makes the headline one of the hardest working elements in advertising!

Here are some approaches for writing an effective headline:


Example: Selling Light Bulbs to a Fish

Funny, catchy headlines will catch people’s attention as they scroll through the deluge of information they face daily. But as David Ogilvy, advertising tycoon, founder of Ogilvy & Mather, and known as the “Father of Advertising” warns, “Never use tricky or irrelevant headlines… people read too fast to figure out what you are trying to say.”


Example: Why Do Fish Need Light Bulbs?

A question headline poses a question to readers with the intent to provide the answer within the article. It can be an effective way to capture attention, provoking curiosity to read on and get an answer.


Example: You Can Sell Light Bulbs to a Fish

“You” is a strong personal word that helps the target audience visualize themselves buying or doing whatever you are advertising or asking, and creates a stronger interest to read and learn more.


Example: You Can Sell 1000 Light Bulbs to a Fish

Incorporating numbers and data in a headline adds to believability and helps the reader envision themselves producing these results.


Example: Light Bulbs Help Fish See Under Water

This headline gets to the point, the problem-solving aspect is clear. People like to help solve problems and will want to learn more.


Example: Fish Need Light Bulbs to See Under Water

Incorporate emotional value; now the target audience is empathetic and wants to help fish see underwater.


Example: Fish Are Able See Under Water with Light Bulbs

An outcome based headline succinctly communicates the results of using a product; extolling its features can be explained in subsequent copy.

Analysis of Real-Time Data

For online advertising, there are “Headline Analyzer” programs that provide real-time data to help you write an effective headline or let you know the effectiveness of a headline already in use. You can make adjustments, rewrites or do test run as needed to help maximize views and engagement. These programs analyze your headline for:

  • Word Balance
  • Sentiment
  • Character Count
  • Word Count
  • Clarity
  • Headline Type
  • Skimmability
  • Reading Grade Level

Writing a great advertising headline is 80% of the sale, quoting again from David Ogilvy, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

So, pay attention to writing your headline so that it gets attention from your audience and engages them to stay longer to learn more. But don’t overlook crafting the content to be just as effective!